There are many warning signs to look out for when it comes to an ineffective team, and they should never be ignored. After all, the efficiency of your team determines the volume of your work output, the quality of that work, whether or not deadlines are achieved, and whether or not project goals are accomplished and key performance metrics met.
As the saying goes, you’re only as strong as your weakest link, and if your team is ineffective and isn’t operating at the highest optimal levels in the workplace, it damages the overall company’s productivity.
Patrick Lencioni, in his work The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, outlined 5 key things that contribute to ineffective team outcomes.
Let’s explore those and discuss how you can resolve them in order to develop a fully functional team.
Lack of trust
Do employees do and say things that damage the team? Are they trying to look good and refuse to admit mistakes or weaknesses? Do they keep it strictly business, preferring to know nothing about each other outside of the workplace? Is everyone in it only for themselves?
This is a team building basic. People need to get to know each other to build trust. How can you begin to develop that trust? Start by building a shared purpose and vision for the team. Defining the shared values for the team creates a sense of “we are alike.”
Additionally, you’ll want to encourage sharing and connection. Arrange some social time after work where people can talk about their lives and get to know each other better. They may very well discover that they have more in common with each other than they originally thought.
Finally, develop shared team goals. These are important, as they create opportunities for people to work together and depend on each other’s expertise to fully deliver. They also help your team members better understand each other’s skills and preferences.
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Fear of Conflict
Do employees avoid having difficult conversations? Do team members skirt around obvious issues and change the subject if they are brought up? Do employees insist everything is fine, but complain behind others’ backs?
Effective teams recognise that disagreements and differences of opinion are healthy and they deal with it in a safe and supportive manner. After all, conflict isn’t necessarily scary. It is the behaviour people usually associate with conflict and the resulting outcomes that people fear.
As the leader, you can role model constructive ways to get issues on the table. Encourage team members to express their differences of opinion and make it safe for people to do so by building a set of operating behaviours that all team members must adhere to (i.e. rules for effective and respectful discussions). Make connections between divergent perspectives, acknowledge where there are differences, and encourage healthy debate.
Lack of Commitment
Do employees work on their own projects and not on team deliverables? Do team members directly or indirectly not support team decisions? Do employees avoid resolutions and actions in meetings? Does the team have talkfests with no outcomes?
Keep referring to the shared purpose and vision that unites the team and continually clarify team outcomes. Then, translate that common purpose into team expectations and performance goals that are specific and measurable. Also, build consensus on overarching goals and approaches.
By doing this, you create a sense of urgency and rationale for the purpose/vision you developed and also help your team members to understand how it transfers into practical actions that are achievable. These actions allow your employees to feel like their work has significance in the bigger picture, which has been known to increase job satisfaction and boost morale.
Avoidance of Accountability
Are employees not setting deadlines and team performance measures? Do team members avoid giving each other constructive feedback? Do employees avoid debating ideas and challenging the team status quo? Do team members not seem to care when the company lets people down?
Implement and maintain a growth mindset in the workplace. No one wants to feel stagnant, not even in the office. Most employees want to up-level themselves and continue developing their skills.
You can help your team with growth by focusing on deadlines and deliverables. Create accountability and coach those who fall behind on delivering on-time. Formally give and receive feedback to all members of the team, offering them insights and resources that will help them to improve upon themselves. Finally, take risks by setting performance goals that stretch team members.
Inattention to Results
Is everyone working hard but not measuring the collective impact of what the team does? Is the team letting important milestones go by without celebrating achievements? Is the team missing opportunities to highlight the importance of their work?
This is a step that a lot of teams miss. It is really easy to get busy and churn out the work without stopping to appreciate just how much is being achieved.
Make it a habit to evaluate team against team performance goals and celebrate success, share rewards, and recognise both team and individual achievements.
Celebrating milestones in this manner, and praising team members regularly, helps employees to feel excited about the work the team is doing and very often improves engagement, which leads to higher productivity and happier employees.
Dysfunctional, ineffective teams can be costly to companies. They can impact productivity, morale, and work output, among other things, and if left unchecked, can very often lead to a toxic work culture.
Implementing the strategies above, however, will help you resolve the 5 common indicators of ineffective teams and help you to build a fully functional team that is more engaged, more productive, and better equipped to perform with excellence.